Between Social Death and Racial Life: Gender and Race Governance in Colonial Barbacoas

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 11:10 AM
Mile High Ballroom 4A (Colorado Convention Center)
Sherwin K. Bryant, Northwestern University
In 1727, Luis Banegas, the captain of a gold mining slave gang working along the Miscay River, escaped the settlement and eventually approached a ranch house where he sought to purchase some cheese.  The turn of events that followed resulted in Banegas's death.  On October, 10, 1727, his owner, doña Theresa Alfonsa de Laría y Valesco sued the rancher for the value of Banegas plus the cost of travel to the town of Chapa to identify and retrieve his body.  The testimony from the case as well as other cases from colonial Barbacoas, informs this analysis of indigenous subjects, enslaved blacks, and slaveholders within the local web of power and governance.  It explores the constitution of colonial black masculinity as one marked, policed, subjected to surveillance, and governed as sexually deviant, monstrous, predatory, violent, and fugitive. These were not mere discursive constructions, or simply glimpses of racial ideology or nascent racial thought. Rather, black masculinity as proclaimed by early modern jurists such as Franscisco Auncibay existed within a utopian vision for the region that prescribed the governance of enslaved African female bodies in the sexual service of placating the assumed oversexed desires and restive urges of enslaved men.  Enslaved black men confronted a gendered power matrix that deemed them as sexually deviant, violent, and deserving of amputations, castration, and death, the true socio-political condition of all enslaved captive subjects.  This paper investigates the claims of black male criminality and sexual deviance that peppered eighteenth-century court cases emerging from Popayán and Barbacoas. As officials endeavored to maintain a monopoly of violence within this colonial rainforest on the outskirts of the kingdom, they constituted blackness through sexual deviance and presumptions of criminal aggression while seeking blacks’ colonial exclusion. This formulation invites renewed conceptual methodologies while providing further ground for theorizing "colonial blackness".
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